Access to talent

Voice of the Practitioner

… there are workforce challenges. Some communities don’t have enough available workforce or don’t have the appropriate talent. These communities have to focus on improving their core businesses and assets before they think about FDI.
Jason Vangalis, Regional Consultant (Ady Advantage)

The evidence is clear that access to a skilled workforce is one of the most important considerations in site selection and investment decisions. Demonstrating the strengths of the existing talent pool as well as the capabilities of the region’s education and workforce systems represents the first step in this process.

Foreign investors value the availability of skilled workforce for their specific needs because this talent can help the firm achieve high productivity goals in a relatively shorter period of time.  Foreign investors also are concerned about the region’s ability to provide a sustainable pool of skilled workers over time. To the extent that a region has the capability through its education and workforce services organizations to help identify, screen, hire, and train workers, that region enjoys a comparative advantage over other regions with lesser capabilities.


San Bernardino County, CaliforniaThe San Bernardino County Economic Development Agency provides opportunities for collaboration between workforce and economic development organizations under the same agency. San Bernardino County has taken a broad view of the role of the local workforce development board, seeing its role as going well beyond the allocation and oversight of funding under the Workforce Investment and Opportunities Act. They articulate and drive a vision for the region that addresses the region’s workforce needs holistically and attracts private funding. For more information on their approach, see the YouTube videos below.

Columbus, Mississippi: Yokohama Tire (Japan) chose a rural site in Mississippi in large part because of the East Mississippi Community College training program. “Even though the dirt is still being churned at the site of the future Yokohama Tire plant, [EMCC is] already training a pool of workers… Even though they only need 500 employees, they’ll have 5,000 ready to go before Yokohama ever opens its doors.” The 2014 story on National Public Radio’s Marketplace details the integral role that talent plays in this rural region’s approach.

Louisiana: Two methanol producers – Yuhuang Chemical (China) and Methanex (Canada) – that chose sites in Louisiana did so anticipating the use of Louisiana Department of Economic Development’s FastStart workforce training program.

Charlotte, North Carolina: The Charlotte workforce development board assisted Siemens with their hiring process by creating a database to screen candidates. The company sought to hire 300 workers and received 10,000 applications. State and local workforce partners conducted skill verification workshops to further narrow the candidate pool to the most qualified individuals.   Also, taking advantage of increased interest in expanding apprenticeships, Siemens partnered with Central Piedmont Community College in a multi-year training program to enable high school seniors to work at the company while taking classes. (Steve Partridge interview, Brookings, 2016, p. 6.)

Forrest City, Arkansas: FDI Frontlines Coalition reports that Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Mike Preston talked about a $410 million investment in Forrest City by Shandong Ruyi Technology Group, a Chinese company building its first U.S. textile manufacturing plant. During the workforce development discussion, Mr. Preston highlighted how Arkansas is the first state to implement computer coding classes in all public and charter high schools, helping to prepare students for the 21st century economy.

North Carolina Apprenticeship 2000: A four-year technical training program in Charlotte, North Carolina designed for juniors and seniors in high school. The program partners with local companies for on-the-job training, as well as Central Piedmont Community College for classroom instruction. Apprentices can earn a AAS degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology.

Chattanooga, Tennessee: Volkswagen collaborated with Chattanooga State Community College to create the Volkswagen Academy. The Academy includes two three-year programs in automation mechatronics and car mechatronics, which students take while participating in paid apprenticeships at the adjacent Volkswagen plant. (Brookings, 2016, p. 6)

Mason, Ohio: In Mason, Ohio (near Cincinnati), a German-owned manufacturing company (Festo Didactic) partnered with Sinclair Community College, TechSolve (the local MEP affiliate), and other local companies to launch a two-year Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program (pp. 47-48).

Athens, Georgia: Under the Georgia Quick Start program in 2014, Athens Technical College partnered with Hitachi to deliver customized training for precision measurement and manufacturing processes. Additionally, the school created an internship program for students and a training program to prepare a team of incumbent workers to study the implementation of an innovative technology overseas. (Adam Garrib et. al., Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, 2016, p. 26)

Michigan: The Michigan Advanced Technician Training Program (MAT²) connects students to industry leaders through an apprenticeship program that alternates between classroom instruction and on-the-job training (Pure Michigan Talent Connect, 2017).

Apprenticeship Carolina: An initiative of the South Carolina Technical College System that provides free apprenticeship consultants to employers to help develop a registered apprenticeship program.



One Baltic Sea Region Initiative Toolkit on Talent Retention: The report is designed to “…inspire mainly local and regional public sector actors to take steps to enhance efforts to welcome, receive and integrate international talents, as well as provide them with concrete tools supporting them to do so.” It contains many tools and cases relevant to efforts in the U.S.

Workforce Magicians: Animatronics firm selects site in San Bernardino County, where talent development is job one,” by Ron Starner, Site Selection, July 2018. This article describes the comprehensive effort by San Bernardino County to develop a skilled talent pipeline, starting in grades K-12. See below for interviews with Reg Javier that describe in more detail the close link between workforce efforts and FDI attraction.

US Department of Commerce Resources

Workforce Talent,” SelectUSA: Includes useful information related to workforce talent and issues in the U.S., such as a video on regulatory environment with regard to labor, information on federal and state labor laws, and a video on federal and state workforce development resources.

How can a Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center support foreign-owned enterprises adapting to doing business in the US? This video from the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) describes how SCMEP has helped foreign investors address people issues regarding cultural differences and leadership. Rhonda Haskins, Regional Vice President, describes services that SCMEP has provided to foreign-owned enterprises that are generally available through MEP Centers.

US Department of Labor resources

Introduction to Apprenticeship

Guidelines on starting apprenticeship programs in different industries

Apprenticeship Community Resource Page

Marketing outreach to business on apprenticeship

Apprenticeship Resources

A Quick-Start Toolkit: Building Registered Apprenticeship Programs

Listen to Reg Javier, Deputy Executive Officer of the San Bernardino County Economic Development Agency, describe how their approach to workforce development supports FDI attraction efforts.

Voice of the Practitioner

Most [investment decisions] end up being about people – workforce… We did a recon of our own workforce issues… When [the foreign owned company] gets a call from a prospective company wanting to know about [workforce issues] in the area, I want to know what they’re going to tell that prospect. If there’s a problem, I need to find a solution.
Rob Sparks, Executive Director, Corporation for Economic Development (Madison County, Indiana)